‘They are ordinary people.’ Soothes my wife as I get ready and get grumpy over having to wear another pressed shirt, when I spend most of my waking hours in a scratchy collar and tie combo.
‘I guarantee there’ll be some smart arse wanting to pick a fight about prices, or fees.’ I tell her with certainty.
‘It’s just a social event.’ She assures me. My quip about a social disease being more welcome didn’t go as well as I’d hoped.
‘I don’t know who three-quarters of these people are.’ I hiss as we enter an overheated room thrumming with alcohol-amplified conversation.
‘They are nice, just like us.’ She replies smiling as our host comes over to accept the cheap wine and re-gifted chocolates.
‘Just like you, you mean.’ I mutter, as I paste on my punter smile and prepare to start drinking heavily.
‘So you are the estate agent.’ States the woman with no discernible dislike. She’s either good, or not drunk enough yet to expose her true feelings. She’s exposing a fairly impressive décolletage though, something I try not to look at conspicuously as she takes the second-hand confectionary with convincing good grace. I just hope she’s experienced enough to make a note of who brought it so she doesn’t give it back just after the use by date expires. I’m still getting grief for that.
‘Do you know many people here?’ The hostess continues after furnishing my wife with wine and me with a gassy continental lager that smacks of a duty-free channel port run. My wife answers in the affirmative while I’m less convincing. The fact is I spend my working life meeting new people I’d not generally extinguish if they were combusting in the gutter, so my few friends don’t need to increase. If I had Facebook they’d struggle to reach double figures.
‘You must meet my partner.’ Gushes the woman, as I sense we’ve had our five minutes of one-on-one hosting. ‘He just loves anything to do with property.’ I should have guessed it would be a “partner” not a husband. The sort of transitory coupling that suggests more of a business relationship than an emotional one. But then once death and debt have been dealt with, divorce and failed relationships bring a regular stream of welcome business no matter how shot the economy is.
‘I follow all the television programmes.’ Drones her other half, as I pretend to pay attention and scan the drinks table for a top-up of something more palatable, and preferably stronger.
‘Yes, Location,’ he continues. ‘Place in the country, place in the sun, the one about auctions and, oh, who’s the woman with the big breasts?’ He asks earnestly. I guess your live-in lover isn’t the answer he’s looking for, so I throw a Sarah, a Kirstie and a Jasmine at him. He’s still frowning and I’m tempted to try a Phil, but in the end I say.
‘They’re all big tits mate.’
‘What do you mean?’ He quizzes frostily.
‘They are just talking heads with an autocue, a script and some researchers.’ I continue starting to enjoy myself for the first time in the evening. ‘They haven’t a clue about the sharp end of property sales.’ The man looks suitably crestfallen and moves on. Mission accomplished I think, as I spot a can of London Pride and grab it ahead of beardy real ale type, who reeks of public servant. Then I see the mad woman heading for me.
‘No offence.’ She finally says after five minutes of industry assassination. ‘But most of you property people are parasites.’ I can feel the anger simmering to a boil as she regales me with vituperative tales of broken chains, broken buyers’ promises and a “useless agent”.
‘You really upset that woman trying to downsize.’ Scolds my wife as my head throbs on the way home.
‘She deserves all she’s got.’ I say defensively.
How was I to know her husband had just died?